Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A tan 2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2 is shown from the front parked in a desert.

Off-Roading the 2023 Colorado? Here’s Which Engine You Want

Chevy has made big moves with the redesigned 2023 Chevy Colorado, giving it a serious focus for the new model year that hinges almost entirely on an off-road profile. In fact, three of the five trims for 2023 are off-road focused, and all three of the powertrains for the Colorado are turbocharged. If you’re thinking about buying a 2023 Chevy Colorado for off-road purposes, should you be looking at a particular powertrain and trim configuration? Well, yes.

You’re probably also wondering how much of a difference the powertrain configurations make in the off-road performance of the Colorado. This is a relevant question because of how Chevy has set up the Colorado’s configurations for the 2023 model year. If you’re into off-roading and looking for a midsize truck, the Colorado probably looks like a good buy, especially with all of the special features of the ZR2. But what if you’re not a hardcore off-road enthusiast, just a semi-active off-road enthusiast? What are you looking for in a midsize off-road truck? And is there a middle ground you can wade through without blowing your budget?

What’s Changed for the 2023 Colorado’s Engine Options

Understanding what works for your shopping habits when it comes to a midsize truck is dependent on understanding what sort of changes were made for the 2023 model year when it comes to the power plants. Chevy actually decided to remove options from the lineup and standardize what’s offered for midsize shoppers eyeing the 2023 Chevy Colorado.

Previously you could get the Colorado with a 3.6-liter V6 or a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine––the latter of which was the go-to option for those who wanted a capable off-road midsize pickup. Alternatively, the 3.6-liter V6 offered enough performance and torque to be capable of some basic off-road thrills. It was pretty clear in previous model years that if you wanted power, you would skip out on any trim that came with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder because it simply didn’t offer any advantages in power or performance.

Well, Chevy decided to simplify the equation for 2023 by completely removing the V6 and the Duramax from the lineup. Chevy also reduced the transmission offerings from six-speed and eight-speed automatics to just an eight-speed automatic. However, the changes aren’t all bad. The new turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder available for the 2023 Colorado comes in three different flavors, each designed for a different level of on-road and off-road performance.

A blue 2023 Chevy Colorado Trail Boss is shown parked in a desert.

Are the New Engines Better Value Than the Old Duramax and V6?

Buying a brand-new pickup truck comes with a ton of questions. When gauging what sort of power plant goes best with the trim you have in mind, an obvious question arises: are the new turbocharged four-cylinder options better or worse, value-wise, than the outgoing 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel and the 3.6-liter V6? The short answer is yes, they are better in every way.

There’s no reason to get into the nitty-gritty of the mechanical details within the engine block to highlight the differences; the headline specs are good enough to give you an idea of what the engineers have managed to achieve for the 2023 Colorado from a performance perspective. Those numbers speak volumes about what you get with the 2023 Chevy Colorado compared to any previous model year Colorado. From a horsepower and torque perspective, the new trio of four-cylinders is just overall better than any previous engine lineup for the Colorado.

The Turbo Plus and Turbo High-Output options for the 2023 Colorado both have more horsepower and torque than the V6 and Duramax turbo-diesel of old. The V6 topped out at 308 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, whereas the 2.8-liter Duramax managed 181 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The new four-cylinders manage much better figures, with the Turbo Plus making 310 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, while the Turbo High-Output manages an astounding 310 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque.

Even the entry-level powertrain for the 2023 Colorado is a much more capable engine compared to what came before. Previously, the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder only made 200 hp and a paltry 191 lb-ft of torque. The new base 2.7-liter Turbo makes 237 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque. So even if you could only afford the most basic, entry-level Colorado, the 2023 model year still nets you enough power and performance to do some moderate off-roading.

These Engines are Designed for Off-Roading

If it hasn’t been made clear yet, it should be restated that all three turbocharged four-cylinder options for the 2023 Chevy Colorado are designed for various levels of off-roading. The base 2.7-liter Turbo may not have the towing and trailering capacity of the higher-end variants, but if you wanted to go to a local trail using your WT or LT trim, you could still manage with a decent set of tires and modest suspension tuning. The base four-cylinder may not offer as much horsepower and torque as the Turbo Plus or the Turbo High-Output, but it’s still capable enough for the basics, much more so than the previous model year’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder.

Up the chain, you have the Turbo Plus and Turbo High-Output. These two are specifically designed to appeal to off-road enthusiasts of just about any level. But you could consider the Turbo Plus intended to appeal to intermediate off-road enthusiasts, hence why it comes standard on the Z71 and Trail Boss trims. The other highlight is that if your budget allows for it, you can actually have the Turbo Plus engine paired up with the WT or LT trims, striking a perfect balance for those shopping on a budget but still in need of that higher output for reliable off-road performance.

The Turbo High-Output four-cylinder comes standard on the ZR2 and the ZR2 Desert Boss special edition. If you’re a hardcore off-roader looking for that perfect midsize truck with reinforced suspension, Multimatic dampers, and a powerful engine to match, the Turbo High-Output likely won’t disappoint in any way. It’s the most capable production Colorado engine to date and has been finely tuned to pump out a lot of low-end torque for all manner of different off-roading activities, including one-pedal rock crawling.

The bed of a 2023 Chevy Colorado is shown.

Maintenance and Longevity: How Will a Four-Cylinder Measure Up?

Every off-road enthusiast knows that service, maintenance, and repairs are all part of the basic requirements for keeping an off-road truck running well. These vehicles typically require more pampering than other vehicles due to the abuse they undergo while off-roading. Since the 2023 Chevy Colorado isn’t out just yet, we can’t know for sure what the cost of service and repairs are for each of the engine options, but we can get a good idea by looking at one of Chevy’s other models.

While the 2023 Colorado’s engine lineup is all-new, the engines are based on the Chevy Silverado’s 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This engine joined the Silverado lineup for 2019, giving us several years of data. Despite the initial trepidation from potential shoppers, the Silverado’s four-cylinder has held up quite well over the years and has received many positive reviews, especially for its towing capabilities. Does this mean the turbocharged four-cylinder options in the 2023 Colorado will be as reliable? Well, the Colorado is lighter and smaller than the Silverado, putting less stress on the engine, so it should actually be even more reliable.

You Can’t Go Wrong

Overall, if you’re planning on doing light off-roading, you shouldn’t worry too much when opting for the base turbocharged four-cylinder. In the same way, if you’re doing heavy off-roading, the High-Output four-cylinder should be more than capable of handling what you can throw at it. Each of the three engines is fine-tuned for off-roading to different degrees, but if you’re budgeting for an off-road pickup truck, you can’t really go wrong with any variation of the 2023 Colorado, even the entry-level trim. Hopefully, this helps put to rest any worries about the capabilities and potential of the 2023 Colorado’s engine lineup.